Big Fish, Little Pond (Part 1)[/h]
Here’s something for you to ponder on: would you rather your child attend an Elite school or a neighbourhood school?

The ‘Big Fish, Little Pond’ theory was coined by a famous psychologist, Herbert Marsh, where Marsh thinks that most parents and students choose their schools based on the wrong reasons. “A lot of people think that going to an academically selective school is going to be good,” he said. “That’s just not true. The reality is that it is going to be mixed.”

This theory was further explored by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, ‘David & Goliath’. In this book, Gladwell cited the example of a girl named Caroline Sacks. She was a brilliant student; scored distinctions and even perfect scores for the subjects she did in school. She was an avid science lover since a young child, where she would draw bugs on her sketch book and label different parts of the bugs. When Caroline was in high school, she was often fascinated by the human body and the way it works. After her junior year in high school, Caroline’s dad took her around to visit a few American universities so to prep up for her future university choice. Brown University became her first love and ideal choice of university, follow by University of Maryland as her second choice. Upon high school graduation, she managed to enrol into Brown University to take on a Bachelor’s Degree in Science.

What happened next? Did she graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Science or did she drop out of the course to purse another major?

Gladwell deduced that Caroline Sacks would probably be in the 99th percentile of students in the world majoring in Science. In the words of Caroline, “If I’d gone to the University of Maryland, I’d still be in Science.” So, what actually went wrong? Why is it that the majority of brilliant students who were accepted into Elite schools became unimpressive thereafter? Are the teachers and professors failing the students, or are the students failing themselves? The answer is none.

What Caroline Sacks faced is known as ‘relative deprivation,’ a term developed by sociologist, Samuel Stouffer. Being in an university with the cream of the crop made Caroline felt unintelligent. The university system crashed her confidence, leaving her demoralised. In every class, there will bound to be a group of students who lie at the bottom of the academic ladder in terms of results. With high expectations from an Elite school, it puts that particular group of students in a difficult position to keep up with rest.

Caroline was placed in an extremely competitive environment as though a small fish in a big pond.

Having said that, we cannot rule out the benefits of being in a big pond such as the relationships built and connections made during the course of school as well as the possible opportunities available.

There are always a few outliers that I would like to point out; notable figures like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg whom are university drop-outs yet have succeeded in their careers expectionally.

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Big Fish, Little Pond (Part 2)

What if you are a big fish in a small pond?

Research suggests that parents should target on getting their child into a school that will assist in boosting his or her confidence towards academic ability, or what researchers termed as 'academic self-concept'.

If you are a big fish in a small pond, one will find that one is at the top of the food chain. As a result, one will tend to feel more confident about his or her ability to perform consistently well in his or her studies. One will also have peers looking up to him or her, thus, building up confidence level. This group of people will have higher aspirations and be more determined in what they are aiming for; self-discipline is cultivated to keep them going. They may then be motivated to maintain their edge.

Likewise, they may get a boost from their average performing classmates if they were to attend a neighbourhood school, giving them a sense of significant achievements in their school. The reverse is likely to be the case at an Elite school, where a child with average academic ability may feel less confident in school, therefore, feeling demoralised and performing worse.

Most parents presume that putting their children in an Elite school is the right thing to do. However, by taking the ‘Big Fish, Little Pond’ theory in mind, is it really true?

The above content was referenced from Malcolm Gladwell’s book titled ‘David and Goliath’.



[h=1]Deer, Magpie, and the Turtle[/h]
The following is a story about love and compassion, the story was from Buddha and translated by the monk Thich Nhat Hanh. A simple and yet compelling story for both children and adults with many punchlines. Hopefully after reading the story, parents and tutors alike will share with the children. Please read the story with an open mind and I hope you bring away a lesson or two starting 2015.

Please click on the following for the complete story:

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[h=1]Is exercise good for kids?[/h]
Is exercise good for kids?

As kids are constantly on the move such as running about, chasing their friends or during ball games during PE, they seem to be exercising indirectly all the time.

[h=2]Exercise makes one happy[/h]

Endorphins, a group of hormonal compounds are released during physical activity that keep the mind happy and stress-free. As a result, kids perform better in school

[h=2]Kids perform better in school[/h]

It has been proven that exercise keeps the mind sharp and focused, allowing kids to better concentrate in class and handle physical and emotional challenges well.

[h=2]Less likely to lead a sedentary lifestyle[/h]

With a strong support from parents and good discipline, kids who started exercising at a young age will be less likely to lead a sedentary lifestyle, resulting in healthier minds and bodies, and leaving parents less worried about their health.

[h=2]Bonding time[/h]

What’s more, parents who set aside time from their busy work schedule to exercise with their kids are able to foster strong bonds and open up the line of communication with their kids more fluidly.

I have yet to explore and study the deeper relation between taking up a competitive sports and the mindset that it can help me create. Stay tune while i continue to research on interesting and thought provoking topics for your.

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Why failure is good for our child?


Why failure is good for our child?

To err is human, to fail is part of life. How many times have we “failed” in life, be it at athletics, on a school project where our desired grades were not achieved or for our examinations? Have you ever wonder what if we stop failing and constantly looking for the easy way out?

To continue reading and understanding why you need to let your child fail today click here

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Is it Wise to Help Your Children Pay for Their University Fees?

There is no right or wrong answer for this – at the end of the day, it boils down to what the parents want their children to achieve and whether the children themselves have the desire, passion and discipline to complete their degrees. Additionally, another point to bear is, are parents helping out financially and emotionally within their means, or not?

I am not a parent, but I believe all parents want the best for their kids. What does that even mean? All parents have different definitions of best, which is not up to me to comment, but the idea of encouraging your child to have a degree is to give him or her a head start in job hunting or career path. This is crucial as parents would love to see their children be independent, to be able to support themselves financially upon graduation and securing a job.

As the saying goes, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” However, can you afford it?

The following links show the estimated local and overseas tuition fees:

It states that an average 4-year degree in Singapore can cost up to $40,000 and up to $262,000 for an Australian degree.

Assuming you are a parent and do not have to break a sweat for coming up with such amounts, then yes, I would encourage that you help to pay for your child’s university fees. However, does your child want your help and is he or she really interested in the courses offered? Are you expecting your child to pay you back in instalment after he or she graduates and finds a job? These are questions only you yourself, as a parent, have answers to.

I have a negative and positive story to share with you. This particular child isn’t interested in studying almost all his life yet his parents decided to send him abroad for one last chance to get a reputable degree. The child ended up not completing his studies and was sent back home wihin 2 years. Here is a point to take away from: does it really take 2 years to finally understand that your child has no interest in studying or a good 2 years’ worth of university fees spent to comprehend the need to stop spending and succumb to the fact your child has zero passion for schoo? The child obviously has no sense of the value of money and time; he knows he will be fed and have a roof over his head regardless. Therefore, this could in turn lead to his complacency in thinking that his parents’ money can and will solve everything in life.

The other positive story I have is about a close friend of mine.
As a young adult, he already knew what he wanted to achieve during his stint in the army. He started researching on universities that will teach him the knowledge and build him the network he so desires. He prepared himself for the SATS diligently and ended up in New York University, where he graduated with honours and have never look back. I would say this is his great achievement and money well spent by his parents.

What if you cannot afford your child’s university fees?

Teach your child the value of money at a young age. Allow him or her to understand your financial situation from young, instill a sense of independence and pride in him or her, and encourage him or her to achieve his or her goals with his or her own ability. Moreover, walk your child through the financial path of covering his or her estimated university fees by utilising savings from his or her part-time jobs and study loans from the banks.

My conclusion is that upbringing, such as how and what parents cultivate in their child, plays an important role in determining their child’s success. Ultimately, there is no right or wrong in helping your child to pay for his or her university fees, it is what he or she has accomplished at the end that is important.

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Delayed Gratification – What Has It Got To Do With Your Children’s Success?

What is one thing we always ask about successful people? Wouldn’t we want to know what they are like, what kind of personalities they have, how intelligent they are, what sort of lifestyles they have, or what special talents they might have been born with? Shouldn’t we also ask where they are from, what type of upbringing did they undergo in order to unearth the logic behind their success?

Achievement is through preparation, and success is a predictable course.

You will be wondering what has this got to do with delay gratification; what has it got to do with successful people. I am going to touch on ‘The Marshmallow Experiment’ designed by Walter Mischel, whom was a Stanford professor. He came up with this idea in the 1960s, where he conducted experiments with children between the ages of 4 to 5, and the theory was followed up by researchers for the subsequent forty years.

What is ‘The Marshmallow Experiment?’

The experiment was conducted in a small room whereby each child was greeted by a marshmallow on a table upon entering. The instructions given by the researcher to the child was: the researcher was going to leave the room and that if the child did not eat the marshmallow until his return, the child would be rewarded with a second marshmallow. However, if the child decided to eat the first one before the researcher returns, then he or she would not get a second marshmallow.

So, should it be one treat right now or two treats later?

Some children gave in to the temptations while a few others resisted well. The researchers followed up with the children for over the next forty years and the results are surprising. The children who were willing to wait for the researcher to be back into the room for their second treat were found to have higher SAT scores, lower levels of substance abuse, lower likelihood of obesity, better response to stress and better social skills as reported by their parents. This experiment has substantiated the fact that the ability to delay gratification was critical for success in life.

This brings us to a few question, do some children simply have more self-control than others? Or can this trait actually be developed?

Another group of researchers from the University of Rochester decided to imitate ‘The Marshmallow Experiment,’ but with a twist. Before the marshmallow was offered, the children were divided into two groups.

The first group was exposed to unreliable experiences, where the researcher gave the children small boxes of crayons and promised to hand out bigger boxes to them, but never did; gave the children stickers and promised to distribute a better selection of stickers to them, but never did.

The second group of children had undergone reliable experiences, whereby what was promised by the researcher was delivered to them.

I believe you have since then understood where this is going by now. The impressions left by the children were based on the importance of their trust on the person (i.e. researcher) to fulfil his promises and words. The children from the first group did not wait long before gobbling the first marshmallow, whereas the second group see the positivity of delayed gratifications. Whenever the researcher made a promise and fulfilled it, the child’s brain registered two things:

1) Waiting for to be gratified is worth it
2) I have the capability and patience to wait

As a result, the second group waited an average of four times longer than the first group, but were far more satisfied than the first group.

Why don’t you train your child to complete all the difficult tasks on hand before he or she goes out to play? For instance, completing his or her daily homework before granting him or her the liberty to head out to play.

Success does not come easy as it involves a lot of hard work and practice. Strive to avoid the easy way out and give your child a conducive and trusting environment to grow up in.

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The 10,000-Hour Rule

Have you ever wonder what makes a professional athlete, a musician, a programming wizard, a singer that professional? Do we associate it with their innate talent and were they just lucky to be discovered? Or is there a deeper connection? Are their achievements results of talent coupled with diligence?

Below is a research done by psychologist, K. Anders Ericsson and two colleagues at the Berlin’s elite Academy of Music. Through the research, Malcom Gladwell drew conclusions about the rich and famous whom are mostly self-made millionaires or billionaires. He deduced that Bill Gates, Bill Joy, Mozart and The Beatles are the few who had clocked at least 10,000 hours of practice in their specific trade before they are recognised as ‘professionals.’

Here’s a brief summary of the research, and hopefully it provokes your thoughts and decision on the necessity of fulfilling the 10,000-hour rule to learn and master something.

Over at the Academy of Music in the 1990s, the psychologist divided the school violinists into three groups. The first group comprised of the stars – the students with the potential to become professional soloists. The second group was made up of those deemed merely good, while the third group was students whom were determined to likely end up as music teachers at the public schools.
All of them were asked the same question – how many hours of practice have they completed till now? You may have guessed it right; by the time the first group hit 20 years of age, each of them had fulfilled almost 10,000 hours of practice as compared to the second group whom had clocked about 8,000 hours of practice, while the third group had completed only 4,000 hours.

The 10,000-hour practice rule seems to be the basis of becoming a professional although author and business expert, Josh Kaufman rebutted this idea with his first 20-hour rule.

My point is, for whatever you would love to achieve at this point of life, go out there and put in the effort to succeed.

So, have you been practising what you like daily?

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Hi guys, will appreciate your feedback and comments regarding what i have summarize from what i have read. Do let me know if your would like me to explore on any other topics about children that will be useful for your. Thank you


How to sing the right praises.jpg

How to Sing the right praises.

Professor Carol Dweck conducted an experiment on about hundered over students who were mostly in their early adolescents. She gave each student a set of ten fairly difficult problems from a non-verbal IQ test. Most of them did pretty well and were showered with different kind of praises.

Almost half of the students were praised on his or her own ability, and it goes like: “Wow, you’ve got eight right. That’s a really good score. You must be smart at this.”

The other half were praised on their efforts: “Wow, you’ve got eight right. That’s a really good score. You must have worked really hard.”

This group of students was not made to feel special nor do they have an innate gift. They were praised solely based on hard work, and for doing what it takes to succeed.

Both groups were on similar settings and abilities to begin with, however, immediately after the praises were given, they began to differ when tasked to another round of test. All of them were offered to challenge themselves on a more difficult IQ test or on a simpler one. The students whom were praised on their abilities have now developed a fixed mindset and rejected the more challenging IQ test. Simply put, they did not want to do anything that could expose their flaws and have them face questions about their talent.

In comparison to the students whom were praised for hard work and effort, about 90 percent of them chose the more challenging task, which they did not perform well on. The first batch of students whom were praised for their abilities now concluded that they were not so smart after all. If success had meant they were intelligent, then less than success meant they were deficient.

The hard working students, however, thought differently: “Just apply more effort.” They did not view it as a form of failure nor did they feel that it was a judgement on their intellect. They saw it as an opportunity to become smarter.
You may wonder about the students’ enjoyment of the test? After the initial success, everybody loved the test; after the more challenging test, the students whom were praised on their abilities mentioned that it was not fun anymore. It cannot be fun when one’s special talent is in jeopardy.

The students whom were praised for their efforts still loved the test, and many thought it was more fun. As this was an IQ test, one may conclude that by praising one on ability lowered one’s IQ, whereas praising one on effort raised it.

My point is, the experiment has shown that it is imperative for a child to undertsand that although talent is good to have, a hard working attitude and growth mindset are must-haves. If one were to analyse the extremely successful people or even company, those groups hold the growth mindset to be in continuous improvement of oneself or situation.

This article was referenced from Professor Carol Dweck’s book titled ‘Mindset.’ It talked about how one has two mindsets for different aspects of life, i.e. the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. It was said that if we were to implement a continuous effort to learn and upgrade and never stay stagnant, we have the potential to become great if we choose to be.

After having read this, I hope the Tutors and Parents will start praising their children based on their hard work and efforts!

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Hi guys, will appreciate your feedback and comments regarding what i have summarize from what i have read. Do let me know if your would like me to explore on any other topics about children that will be useful for your. Thank you


How to be a Great Tutor.jpg

How to be a Great Tutor?

The word teacher has its roots in the Latin word – meaning to lead or to draw out. Good teachers draw out the best in every student; they are willing to polish and shine each student’s inner gem until his or her true lustre comes through.

Celebrated teacher and activist, Marva Collins felt dejected and doleful about the public education system as it boiled down to an overflow of administrative work and inadequate time to teach her students, which resulted in her decision to leave the school. She then moved on to establish Westside Preparatory School in Garfield Park, an impoverished neighbourhood of Chicago, also termed as the ‘ghetto.’

Marva accepted Chicago’s children who were mostly judged and labelled. They were classified as unteachable, mentally handicap, children with “behavioural problems.” Those unpleasant epithets were left on the door as Marva welcomed them to her school and treated each of them like a fresh sheet of paper. She loved every single child and believed they are all unique and that it is her job to bring out the brilliance in them.

Her opening speech on the first day of school goes like: “I am a teacher. A teacher is someone who leads. There is no magic here. Mrs Collins is no miracle worker. I do not walk on water, I do not part the sea. I just love children and work harder than a lot of people, and so will you.”
“I know most of you can’t spell your name. You don’t know the alphabet, you don’t know how to read, you don’t know homonyms or how to syllabicate. I promise you that you will. None of you has ever failed. School may have failed you. Well, goodbye to failure, children. Welcome to success. You will read hard books in here and understand what you read. You will write everyday so that writing becomes second nature to you. You will memorize a poem every week so that you can train your minds to remember things. It is useless for you to learn something in school if you are not going to remember it. But you must help me to help you. If you didn’t give anything, don’t expect anything. Success is not coming to you, you must come to it.”

The great teachers believe in the growth of intellect and talent, and they are fascinated with the process of learning. Mrs Collins taught them phonics, read them Aesop’s fables which are one of the many classics she used in her classroom. She prefers such classics as they each have a moral lesson to be learnt. The children will be engaged to read out loud in class so that if any pronunciation errors are made, she will be able to correct them on the spot. Moreover, while going through the paragraphs, she will pick up new vocabulary for the students, explain the meaning to them and test their understanding moments later. She will also steer the children to think about the story and instill in them a positive and growth mindset.

When 60 Minutes, an American television programme, did a segment on Collin’s classroom, CBS correspondent Morley Safer tried his best to get a child to say he didn’t like the school. “It’s so hard here. There’s no recess. There’s no gym. They work you all day. You have only forty minutes for lunch. Why do you like it? It’s just too hard.”
But the student replied, “that’s why I like it, because it makes your brains bigger.”
Any child can sense if a teacher cared enough to teach. Fixed-minded teachers often think of themselves as finished products. Their role is to simply impart their knowledge, which overtime might become boring. Show me a listless teacher and I will show you a restless class.

Growth-minded teachers tend to be selflessly devoting untold hours to the “worst” students. They are not entirely selfless, but it could be they too simply love to learn, and teaching is a wonderful way to learn. About people and how they learn about what you teach. About yourself. About Life.

Which mindset do you have?

The article is referenced from Professor Carol Dweck’s ‘Mindset’ and ‘Marva Collins’ Way’ by Marva Collins and Civia Tamarkin. Below is the link to the free e-book I found online. It is very inspiring and, hopefully, it triggers the zeal in you to grow and keep learning.

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Talent is Overrated, Hard Work is Not. (Part 1)

How often have we showered praises, eulogies and even gone to the extent of worshipping successful people in their fields? It could probably go like this: “Bill Gates is absolutely brilliant, he must have DNA programming in his genes,” “Look at Michael Jordan achievements, he is born to do this,” “Michael Phelps must be born a fish; he is just so talented in swimming.”

Have we dug deeper into the lives and upbringing of these successful people before coming to a conclusion that it was real hard work and the environment that moulded their character?

I am going to explore and briefly summarise the life of Bill Gates; to uncover the points that we have missed out. To only look at where he is today without looking at his past, must have been a huge oversight.

Gates’s dad was a well-known lawyer in Seattle while his mother was the daughter of a successful banker. During seventh grade, they sent him to Lakeside, a private school that catered to Seattle’s elite family. On the second year of school, the school purchased a computer terminal worth three thousand dollars. It was in 1968 and most colleges didn’t even have a computer club.

Soon after, a group of programmers at the University of Washington formed a club called ‘Computer Center Corporation’ or ‘C-Cubed’ in short. One of the parents at Lakeside is one of the founders, and he offered the club a job to test out C-Cubed software programs in exchange for their free programming time.

Not long after, another company named ‘Information Science Inc.’ allowed the boys to work on their software, which can be used to automate payroll in exchange for their free computer time.

During the age of fifteen and sixteen, Paul and Gates learned of the availability of free computers at the University of Washington. These computers were connected to the medical centre and Physics department running twenty four hours a day, but with a slack time between 3am to 6am, where Paul and Gates utilised to practice on what they like.

TRW, a technology company, required programmers who were familiar with a specific kind of software called up Gates for help. Gates managed to convince his teachers to allow him to decamp at Boonerville for such undertaking, under the guise of an independent study project.

Because of Bill Gates’s passion in programming and being born into the right family with the right environment, he was given ample opportunities to grow and hone his skills. Thus, if you read about the 10,000 hour rule, this was where he had accumulated his hours. As such, being an outlier and dropping out of Harvard University during his sophomore year to set up Microsoft was by no means sheer luck. It was his passion and hard work that got him to where he is today.

As Michael Jordon put it, “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Jordon further added, “Maybe I led you to believe it was easy, when it wasn’t. Maybe I made you think my highlights started at the free throw line, and not in the gym. Maybe I made you think that every shot I took was a game winner. That my game was built on flash, and not fire. Maybe it’s my fault that you didn’t see that failure gave me strength, that my pain was my motivation. Maybe I led you to believe that basketball was a God-given gift, and not something I worked for, every single day of my life. Maybe I destroyed the game. Or maybe, you’re just making excuses.”

There will be a Part Two of this article, where I will delve deeper into hard work and share a psychologist experiment on it. Stay tuned till my next article, and have a good day every day!

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Role Model

A mother once asked Gandhi to get her son to stop eating sugar. Gandhi told the child to come back in two weeks. Two weeks later the mother brought the child before Gandhi. Gandhi said to the boy,"Stop eating sugar." Puzzled, the woman replied, "Thank you, but i must ask you why you didn't tell him that two weeks ago." Gandhi replied, "Two weeks ago i was eating sugar."

Are you a role model?


Talent is Overrated, Hard Work is Not. (Part 2)


After reading part 1 of ‘Talent is overrated, Hard Work is Not,’ I hope you have noticed that the connection of being successful in any particular field is due to the environment, the upbringing and the person itself.

Have you heard of the famous educational psychologist and chess teacher named Laszlo Polgar? He is the father of the famous Polgar sisters: Zsuzsa, Zsofia and Judit. What is so special about him you might wonder? Polgar studied intelligence when he was a university student; he went through biographies of hundreds of life stories about geniuses and formed the conclusion that these geniuses were not born, but educated and trained since young. As a result, he became a strong advocate of hard work.

When the girls were at the age of four, official chess training commenced for them. They were home schooled and from their own testimonies, they never found chess to be boring. They found it very exciting and looked forward to their chess practice each day. Their father, Polgar, had internalised their inner motivation and sparked their curiosity to learn more about chess and made it a point for his girls to have purposeful practices.

In August 1981, Zsuzsa won the world title for girls under sixteen at the age of twelve. Less than two years later, in July 1984, she became the top rated female chess player in the world. In January 1991, she became the first woman player in history to reach the status of a Grandmaster.

In 1980, Zsofia won the Under Eleven Hungarian Championship for girls at the age of five. She went on to win the gold medal at the World Under Fourteen Championships in 1986 and numerous gold medals in chess Olympiads and other prestigious championships.

In 1988, Judit won the World Under Twelve Championships in Romania. It was first time in history where a female won an overall world championship. Three years later in 1991, Judit became the youngest ever Grandmaster in history.

This whole idea reflects back on this quote, “Give a man a fish you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish you feed him for a lifetime.” Polgar had imbued and taught his children about hard work, and I believe in teaching our children and even ourselves that hard work pays off and is rewarding. Polgar had taught his daughters well, and I too understand that probably not all parents have the time or know the techniques on how to train their children to be a genius. Therefore, the least we can do is to educate them about hard work, perseverance and tenacity.

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Nuture versus Nature?

Do genes play a part in the character makeup of the person? Or are genes simply the makeup of the essential human parts; for example, our eyes, hair colour, liver or something that is tangible.

Do you think that if I were to clone Michael Jordan’s genes, his exact clone will have the same traits in terms of determination, perseverance and the hardworking attitude for basketball? Or can those traits be transferred to other hobbies or trades in life? I believe this is still open up for debate even till this era, if Michael Jordan’s clone is to be what we would have expected in terms of the individual traits and character, then why aren’t Michael’s siblings in a way as successful as he was in their specific trade, and why not even the rest of his family member’s height as close to his?

Would the environment that we are brought up in make a difference? The following article tells a story about a pair of twins: The Mystery of How Identical Twins Develop Different Personalities
The ensuing story is about George Ramirez whom undergone the ‘Knowledge is Power Program’ known as the KIPP in short that saved his life.

George Ramirez grew up in New York’s South Bronx, which is deemed a ghetto area. Born in 1993 in Ecuador, George’s dad worked in a bank and his mom was a librarian. In 1998, they migrated to New York and George was enrolled in a public school. His first public school experience went like:

“I spoke no English. They put me into a bilingual class. My teacher was really nice. It was just a mess. People running everywhere, screaming, adults screaming, total confusion, pushed around, terrified, no instruction... I got into a few fights and was constantly surrounded by adults who directly and indirectly told me and my classmates I was getting nowhere. Why do I even bother trying? I remember my second grade teacher yelling over my rowdy class. ‘It’s not like you will actually make anything of yourselves.’” And it stayed that way for four years.

How had KIPP “saved” him?

“The first time I came to KIPP is the first time anyone believed in me. My parents encouraged me but as parents without knowledge, KIPP encouraged me with knowledge and gave me ‘we believe in you, so let’s do this! Here are the resources.’ The long hours, the orchestra, the focus on character and college preparation, the ‘tough love,’ and the positive expectations. ‘All of you will go to college!’ It’s showing that you care by being very, very honest. If you make a mistake and do something that doesn’t make you smart, they show you what you need to do, and you know they do it because they care.”
On my note on would the environment affect our upbringing? The following would be a good example to elaborate further.

As quoted from George, “I had never been at a place where people told me what they wanted out of me without screaming. And what they wanted was for my own good, and everyone else’s. Plus lots and lots of positive reinforcements for doing well, and for everything good I did. When you do the right thing, the right things happen. When you do the bad, wrong things, the bad things happen.”

George is now a senior at Yale University, majoring in physics and history. This is a link to his interview with regard to delay gratification: This South Bronx kid would have failed the marshmallow test. So how did he get into Yale?

From all the articles that I have summarised and the books that I have read so far, points towards the direction of enviroment, effort and hard work and astounding information being presented to me, my take would be nuture surpassing nature.

American educator, Marva Collins, mentioned that children are naturally curious about their environment and parents are the first form of teachers. Thus, it will be wise to help satisfy their inquisitives of the whys and hows. Learning is a continuous journey for both parents and child; never stop for a moment to learn and expand your horizon as parents are key role models whom their children look up to.

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Are you a Role Model?

Who do you think children look up to when they are at a young impressionable age? Do you find that certain children behave similarly to someone? Could it be you? Could you be looking at your own reflection? If yes, do you like what you see?

This was an experiment done by Dr Walter Mischel, who created the Marshmallow test, along with his student Robert Liebert. The name of the experiment is ‘The Role of Power in the Adoption of Self-Reward Patterns.’
Firstly, they selected fourth grade boys and girls who are around the age of ten years old. In their individual sessions, a young woman (the model) was introduced to the child, whom then acquainted the child with a “bowling game.” Designed and made by a toy company who wanted to test it on children to judge their level of interest. It was a miniature version of a bowling alley, with signal lights at the end that registered the score for each trial. The target area at the end of the runway was screened so that the bowler could not see where the ball hit and relied on the score displayed in the signal lights for their performance. The scores were preset and not connected to the actual performance, but in a way that made them completely credible. Within an easy arm’s reach was a large bowl full of tokens - colourful poker chips - that the child and the model could use to reward themselves for their performance. They were told that the chips held valuable prizes at the end, and the more chips, the better the prize. The attractively wrapped prizes were in full view in the room, but were not openly discussed.

Three different types of scenarios were conceived by them. Namely the “tough standards”, “tough on model, easy on child” and “easy on model, tough on child.” This served as a guide for the model to determine how she should reward herself and how to guide the child to evaluate his or her own performance. Each child participated in only one of these conditions.

In the “tough standards” scenario, the model was demanding with herself as well as the child. Taking a token when the model’s score was high; for example, when it was above twenty points. Giving self-approving opinion like “That is a good score, that deserves a chip” or “I can be proud of that score, I should treat myself for that.” When the score was lower than twenty points, she abstained from taking a token and criticised herself. She treated the child exactly how she treated herself.

In the “tough on model, easy on child” scenario, the model was tough on herself, but lenient with the child, leading him or her to self-reward for lower scores.

In the “easy on model, tough on child” scenario, she was lenient with herself, but held the child to a stringent standard of self-rewarding for only the best score.

After the children participated in one of these conditions, the researchers observed them from behind the plexi-glass where the tokens were freely available. Children embraced the most exacting standards on themselves when they had learned from a tough-on-herself model, who was equally tough on them. When the criteria and demands were consistent by the model, the children adopted those standards without deviation when she was not present.

Children who were cheered to take it easy on themselves stayed that way in the post test when they were left on their own, even when they had witnessed the model who was demanding on herself. The last group of children were held to a stringent self-reward standard during training and had learned with a model who was lenient with herself. It appeared that half retained the more stringent method that they had been taught, while the other half used the more liberal standards that they had observed on the model.

This study suggested that if you want your children to adopt the high self-reward standards, it will be a fantastic idea to nuture them to embrace the tough standards, while also implementing it on yourself. As the saying goes, ‘monkeys see, monkeys do’ – if you are not consistent and are tough on your children but lenient on yourself, there is a good chance that your children will adopt the self-reward standards you modelled, and not the ones you imposed on them.


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[h=1]Developing Talent in Young people by Benjamin S Bloom[/h]
Benjamin S Bloom was born in February 21st 1913 and passed on, on September 13th 1999. He made significant contributions to the classification of educational objectives as well as to the theory of mastery-learning. He was a respected American Educational Psychologist.

Bloom, together with his researchers, conducted a study of 120 young men and women in six different domains. They were concert pianist, sculptors, Olympic swimmers, world class tennis players, research mathematicians and research neurologists. After consulting the experts in the different field, the researchers were able to draft out a set of criteria of which the individuals will be selected on. They were either finalists in international competitions, recipients of prestigious and highly competitive fellowships or prizes or awards, members of the US Olympic team (Swimmers), achieving top ten ranking in the world (Tennis players), their writings were frequently cited in papers published by others and well-regarded by the chairman heads of the fields’ departments of leading universities in America.

There were a lot of reasons why they achieve what they achieved. The research had noted the children who succeeded in sports, had supportive parents who hold in high regards of athletic and academic achievement. Their priority in the family had been to give their kids whatever opportunity that was available in the area of sports. Their first swimming or tennis instructors were able to generate their interest as well as motivation. Once they have reached a certain level, they moved on to the next coach who was able to improve on their techniques, providing training to the individual needs. At a certain stage, the swimmers and tennis players had decided for themselves should they want to be professionals.

Take for instance, the group of mathematicians and research neurologists; they had parents who valued academic achievements highly. Books were readily available at home; the kids will read for pleasure most of the time. As the kids had either parent who was always busy with their work; or they will be engaged in some sort of clubs or societies, attitudes that the parent had encouraged was of constant and diligent learning. It was reported that since young whenever the kids were to asked questions, the parents will answer the kids as if they were adults. Their expectation of their kids was to do well in school.

The summary is just the tip of the iceberg, I would encourage you to delve deeper into research. The kids’ achievement was also mainly due to the parents’ contribution. During the growing up years, they knew what their parents valued and, thus, worked hard to seek their approval. Thereafter at a certain age, they knew what they wanted and worked even harder for their goals, with the help of the professionals, of course. All kids will and can be successful in their own terms. However, during the pursuit of success, please keep in mind the moral upbringing.

What sort of environment are you providing?


Performance Character

Different people have different opinions of success. What does it mean when parents mention that they want their kids to be successful?

Academic success followed by landing a high paying job? If the young adults have low paying jobs yet they love what they do - is that considered not too successful?

Have we neglected the children’s characters? In future, will the children possess the desired moral values? Will they show filial piety? Will they show confidence and not arrogance? Will they contribute back to society as one’s success is also quite dependent on others for help? Take for example, the teacher's or parents' influence in the children’s lives.

David Levin and Mike Feinberg are the founders of KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program). KIPP was set up in 1999, and it is a charter school set up for the under privileged children in parts of America. Children are selected via a lottery system. KIPP provides a dynamic and encouraging environment for the children’s education success. In fact for the first batch of students, they triumphed on the eight-grade citywide achievement test, graduating with the highest score in Bronx and the highest in all of New York City.

David and Mike kept a close record of their students' programs and were disappointed to know that every other month after they graduated from KIPP, students were slowly dropping out. At the end of the first batch of thirty eight students who graduated from KIPP, only eight managed to attain a Bachelor of Arts.

What Happened?
When the drop-out report rolled in on the first, second and third batch of KIPP students, Levin spotted something peculiar: the students who persisted were not necessarily the ones who excelled academically at KIPP. They seemed to possess certain other traits; skills like optimism, resilience and social agility.

Realising that the children needed character moulding, Levin decided on seven characteristics that are likely to predict life satisfaction and high achievement.

They are as follow:

Grit: Courage and residue; strength of character

Self-control: The ability to control oneself, in particular one’s emotion and desire

Zest: Great enthusiasm and energy

Social Intelligence: The ability to get along well with others, and get them to cooperate with you

Gratitude: The quality of being thankful

Optimism: Hopefulness and confidence about the future or the success of something

Curiosity: Strong desire to know or learn something

Levin integrated “Dual Purpose Instruction” in the class curriculum, where the class discussed about character strengths during each lesson. They started implementing character report cards to help the students improve on their characters.

Other than building success academically, I hope that parents as role models will evaluate in-depth on the question of "what sort of person would I want my children to be?"

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Programme For International Assessment (PISA) – What Does It Mean For Singapore?

PISA is a test designed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. It is a test designed to uncover whether our education system is helping students to acquire knowledge and skills that are essential for participation in modern societies.

The results were tabulated in 2012, and Singapore came in second. An achievement we should be proud of; nonetheless, there are still questions to be asked, such as are our children having lesser hours of sleep in order to reach such academic achievements?

Are they having more hours spent on tuition? I don’t believe there is a definite answer for this. As children and young adults have different pace in school, their varying levels of needs then exist. In the event they can not catch up with school work, they might seek the help of school teachers or private tutors.

Amanda Ripley is the author of “The Smartest Kid in the World.” Due to the results of the PISA test, she decided to follow three American exchange students in Korea which came in fifth in the Ranking, in Finland which came in twelfth and Poland which came in fourteenth in the Ranking repsectively. She was trying to compare and evaluate American students whom came in thirty-sixth and wondered what went wrong since America is supposedly a developed nation.

How did Finland do it?
Amanda concluded that it will be wise to copy methods from Finland. The Finns decided that the only way to get serious about education was to select highly educated teachers, the best and brightest of each generation, and train them rigorously. So, that was what they did. It was a radically obvious strategy.

In Finland, all education schools were selective. Getting into a teacher-training program was as prestigious as getting into medical school or law school. The rigor commenced in the beginning, not using an initial pay to attract the potential teachers, nor a bond to guarantee them a place in the teaching society after they graduate.

A teacher union advertisement from the late 1980s began with a boast: “A Finnish teacher has received the highest level of education in the world.” Such claim could never have been made elsewhere.

All Finnish teachers were required to undergo six years of studies as well as a Master’s degree. Stara, a Finnish teacher, trained one year in a public school for her Master’s degree. She had three teacher mentors, and she observed their classes closely. When she taught her own classes, her mentors and fellow student teachers took notes of which she received feedback, where some were harsh. Nonetheless, she learned how to motivate her students better, and even collaborated with her fellow student teachers to design lessons that integrated materials from all their subjects.

What if Singapore has such a system in place? If being a teacher is as prestigious as being a Doctor, Lawyer or Banker, would more people take up the challenge? Assuming if Singaporean teachers are as proficient as the Finnish teachers, wouldn’t the children of Singapore spend less time in a tuition centre or with a private tutor? All their learnings can be done in school efficiently. The core skills mandated for modern society can be achieved without the expense of children having inadequate sleep as well as paying tutors to assist in the students’ homework.

Yes, I do understand that it is not as easy as it seems due to the competitive mindset of Singaporeans. I believe we are also afraid that our child might fall back academically compared to their peers when no tutitions are given. Therefore, should we apply the Finnish education system in Singapore, our children will then have additional time on hand to pursue other subjects of interests more intensely.

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Learned Optimism: What Has it Got to Do with Your Child’s Future?

Dr. Martin Seligman is an American psychologist and an author of the book ‘Learned Optimism’. It details the years of research he had done on the benefits of positive psychology.

He concluded that it leads to better physical health and higher achievements. However, this does not signify that pessimism has no role in the society as it does help give reality checks at times.

A Case Study on Insurance Agents

The following is a case study of insurance agents from Metropolitan (MET), an insurance company in America. MET, as it is known today, has an issue with their insurance agents. Every year, they hire five thousand new agents out of the sixty thousand who applied for the job. They tested them, screened them and interviewed them and provided them with extensive trainings. However, half of them quit within the first year.

Those who stayed on did not produce well. Eighty percent of them were gone by the fourth year. It is said to cost MET more than thirty thousand dollars to hire a single agent. MET lost about seventy five million dollars every year in hiring cost.

Implemented Solution

Dr. Seligman came up with a questionnaire, which is able to determine and differentiate one’s outlook from deeply pessimistic to irrepressibly optimistic. As a result, new candidates had to take two tests now when applying for an insurance agent position with MET.

The Results

The results were astonishing. It turned out that insurance agents who scored in the top half of optimism sold thirty seven percent more policies over two years compared to those in the pessimistic bottom half.

What Has it Got to Do with You?

People with more optimism are supposedly more resilience and determined. Life is filled with up and downs. Imagine a child who is better equipped to handle disappointments or setbacks, he or she will then be able to move on with life.

Dr. Seligman has found ways in which optimism can be learned. We will be sharing them with you soon. Alternatively, you may click on the link below to read the PDF copy of the book:

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